"It was a hard time, Ma." Michael sighed. He lifted his coffee cup to his lips with hands that shook a little. His mother's probing questions touched on places in his psyche that still tortured him with unresolved pain
"Pearl, why don't you see about supper and let me show Michael the new barn." Ennis didn't often interrupt Pearl. Michael felt something inside him loosen. He watched as Pearl blinked at Ennis owlishly for a moment.
"All right," she stammered. "It's so good to see you, Michael; I guess I did get carried away a little."
Michael gave her a watery smile and followed Ennis out into the afternoon sunshine.
"Rough time in the war, Son?" Ennis asked his own gentle question once they'd reached the barn's dimness.
"It still gives me nightmares, Pa," Michael was able to admit; away from his mother's prying eyes.
"That how you lost your leg?"
Michael turned and really looked at the man he called Pa. Ennis met his gaze openly. A new respect for Ennis filled his face. "You're dumb as a fox. You know that."
"You will have to tell her. Eventually, even she'll catch on."
Michael looked up at the new rough-hewn rafters over his head, as he fought back the urge to fall on this man's shoulder as he used to do as a boy.
"It's not easy to talk about. The words seem to get choked up inside me and I can't get'em out."
"Sometimes talking about it's like picking a festered splinter. It hurts while you're doing it, but it feels a hell of a lot better when it's done."
By now, Michael and Ennis had walked to the back end of the barn where the shadows flung out a soothing net over the stalls. Within those shadows, Michael found it easier to get the first words out.
"I didn't mind the fighting and such so much until my friend, Tolliver, and I, were transferred to General Oliver Otis Howard," Michael said, leaning up against one side of an empty stall. His pa leaned up against the opposite wall.
"General Howard was in command of the right wing in Sherman's March to the sea. The utter destruction so sickened Tolliver and I, we decided to desert."
"We weren't the only ones, Pa. The men were deserting like flies. Tolliver and I only had three months left to serve. We weren't too worried about mustering out a little early."
"But deserting, Son. You could have been court-marshaled!"
"I know, Pa. But General Sherman had ordered his troops to burn those people's crops, kill any farm animals the army couldn't eat, burn their barns, their houses. Winter was coming on. They left those people to starve. That was the point. Leave the south totally devastated and demoralized in order to end the war. I couldn't be a part of that. It was sickening to see."
Michael paused a moment to look up at the rafters again, thinking back to all the fires he'd set. "I've burned barns like this one. Pa. Some better."
Ennis looked up at the barn he was so rightly proud of, and swallowed before he looked back at his son.
"Tolliver and I planned to leave before we reached Savannah. The army had bivouacked about twenty miles west of there when Tolliver got our chance to slip away. They sent a group of us out on a foraging expedition. When we split up into pairs, Tolliver and I made a run for it. Tolliver and I split up ourselves, to be less conspicuous. I had the misfortune to run into a civilian. His only weapon was a hoe he was using on the weeds in his field."
"Oh dear lord, Son."
"It was an accident, Pa. I wouldn't have shot that man on purpose for anything. The army had bivouacked at their family's plantation. This girl had come to warn her uncle about it. She was bringing her uncle's shotgun to him."
"What went wrong?"
"She came out of nowhere. Ran right into the back of me before she even realized I had a rifle pointed at her uncle. The rifle discharged straight into her uncle's chest. He died almost instantly."
Michael closed his eyes against the remembered pain; seeing again that red flower of blood blooming on the man's chest. He hung his head over the top of the stall and stared down at the hay covering the dirt floor, wondering if he was going to be sick.
|Scarlett Johansson||as Rose McGregor|
|Sam Trammell||as Woodrow Rice|
|Alan Rickman||as Silas Farthingham|
|Alexander Skarsgard||as Ike Jorgennson|
|Amy Adams||as Aunt Mary McGregor|
|Adien Turner||as Lt. Michael McFarland|
|Allison Brie||as Eleanor Rosenthal|